Prospecting licence guidelines
Information to assist applicants for and holders of prospecting licences under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990
- Application for a prospecting licence
- Work on a prospecting licence
The purpose of these guidelines is to provide advice to applicants for and holders of prospecting licences regarding:
- general requirements for applicants and
- the work that is required to be undertaken on a prospecting licence.
These are for guidance only to help explain the nature of existing requirements under the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990 (the Act) and the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) (Mineral Industries) Regulations 2019 (the Regulations). Applicants should also refer to the 'Prospecting Licence Application Kit'. Additional information may also be obtained by contacting your local office of the department. For more information please contact us.
The guideline attempts to distinguish legal requirements (in the Act and Regulations) from other general guidance by using words such as 'must' and 'required'. If there is any inconsistency between these guidelines and the Act or Regulations, the Act and Regulations will prevail. If applicants or licence holders are uncertain about any of their legal obligations they may wish to seek independent legal advice.
Amendments to the Act passed in 2010 introduced a new prospecting licence. The amendments came into operation on 1 February 2012. These guidelines also include some of the other significant amendments which have come into effect since then.
A prospecting licence allows prospectors and small-scale miners to undertake exploration and/or mining activities. Prospecting licences have the following characteristics (see sections 14B and 15(1A)):
- they may only be granted over an area of 5 hectares or less;
- they may be granted for a term of up to 7 years;
- they can not be renewed;
- the grant of a prospecting licence does not require the identification of a mineral resource as a prerequisite; and
- the holder of a prospecting licence may apply for a mining licence or retention licence over the area of the prospecting licence, subject to identification of a mineral resource.
To ensure that large areas are not held under adjoining prospecting licences, the legislation places the following limits on adjoining prospecting licences (see section 15(1A)(g)).
An application cannot be made for a prospecting licence that adjoins an existing prospecting licence if:
- that existing prospecting licence has been registered for less than two years, or
- the total area covered by that and other adjoining prospecting licences would form a contiguous area that exceeds 20 hectares.
3. Application for a prospecting licence
Land covered by existing licences and licence applications
An application for a prospecting licence cannot be made over land that is covered by an exploration licence or that is the subject of an application for an exploration licence unless (see section 15(1A)(ca):
- the applicant is the holder of, or the applicant for, the exploration licence; or
- the application is accompanied by the written consent of the holder of, or the applicant for, the exploration licence to the granting of the licence; or
- the exploration licence was first registered more than 2 years before the application for the prospecting licence was lodged.
A person applying for a prospecting licence over land covered by an exploration licence may apply to the Minister to waive the need for the exploration licence holder's consent (section 25A). Those circumstances are where the relevant exploration licence was first registered more than 2 years before the prospecting licence application was lodged and the applicant is unable to obtain the exploration licence holder's written consent.
On receipt of a valid waiver application, the Minister must consider whether certain limits on the number of prospecting licences would be exceeded (refer sections 25(1)(c)(i) and (ii)) and, if the limit would not be exceeded, must consult with the Mining Warden. The holder of the relevant exploration licence would be notified by the Mining Warden of the waiver application.
An application for a prospecting licence cannot be made over land that is covered by a retention licence or that is the subject of an application for a retention licence unless (see section 15(1A)(cb)):
- the applicant is the holder of, or the applicant for, the retention licence; or
- the application is accompanied by the written consent of the holder of, or the applicant for, the retention licence to the granting of the licence.
A prospecting licence cannot be applied for over land that is already covered by a prospecting licence or mining licence, or an application for a prospecting or mining licence.
An application for a prospecting licence must be in accordance with the Act and Regulations. Applicants should refer to the Application Form for relevant details, though the requirements are also summarised below.
An application must include:
- name and address of applicant/s;
- a contact name and postal address for correspondence;
- relevant company details;
- map/plan at a scale of 1:25 000 containing prescribed information;
- names and addresses of the owner/occupier of any private land covered by the licence;
- information pertaining to whether the applicant or an associate is a 'fit and proper person'
- for an application that includes Crown land, indicate which option will be used to comply with the Native Title Act 1993 (Cth) or the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (see also Prospecting Licence Application Kit)
- for an application that is covered by an exploration licence or retention licence, or is the subject of an application for an exploration licence or retention licence, certain prescribed information;
- term required (in years);
- mineral(s) proposed to be mined and/or explored;
- the estimated expenditure of the term of the licence;
- evidence of financial capability to fund the estimated expenditure to undertake the proposed program of work;
- details about technical advisers who will be assisting in the exploration or mining program;
- details of the applicant's experience in exploration or mining activities.
- details of the program of work.
Through the application, the applicant must satisfy the Minister that the applicant (see section 15(6)):
- is a fit and proper person to hold the licence;
- intends to comply with the Act;
- genuinely intends to do work;
- has an appropriate program of work; and
- is likely to be able to finance the proposed work and rehabilitation of the land.
Applicant to survey boundaries of land
The Department Head may require a person who intends to apply for a prospecting licence to survey the boundaries of the land proposed to be covered by the licence and to provide the survey as part of the application, if the Department Head is satisfied that a survey is required:
- to ensure the location of the application area is specified accurately; or
- to avoid the possibility of a boundary dispute with a nearby licence.
Prior to lodging an application for a prospecting licence, you should contact the Earth Resources Information Centre of the department on 1300 366 356 or email email@example.com to determine requirements.
If the Department Head determines that a survey is required, please ensure that the application includes a survey of the boundaries of the land proposed to be covered by the licence in accordance with section 15(1BH) and Division 3A of the Act.
Advertising of prospecting licence application
The Regulations provide that the applicant must, within 2 weeks after being notified that the application has been given the highest ranking, insert a notice of the application in one newspaper circulating in each locality of the licence application area. The applicant must also serve a copy of the notice on the owner and occupier of the land affected. Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Regulations specifies the information that must be included in the notice.
4. Work on a prospecting licence
The grant of a prospecting licence will not of itself permit work to be undertaken. Before work, other than low impact exploration, can be undertaken the licensee must have (see section 42(1)):
- an approved work plan;
- entered into a rehabilitation bond;
- obtained all necessary consents and other authorities;
- complied with any condition imposed by the Minister to provide an environmental offset; and
- obtained public liability insurance.
A holder of a prospecting licence who proposes to do work under the licence must lodge a work plan with the department (section 40(1)).
In the case of any work (including low impact exploration) on private land the consent of, or a compensation agreement with, the land owner/occupier is required.
Where work undertaken on a prospecting licence is mining, the work plan must include a rehabilitation plan and a community engagement plan (see sections 40(3)(c) and (d)).
The holder of a prospecting licence is required to provide an annual activities and expenditure report within 4 weeks of 30 June each year in relation to activities conducted on the licence, including expenditure on:
- wages and salaries
- equipment, plant or machinery
- administration and consumables and other costs
- mining work (including description and quantities of ore and waste mined and treated).
The report must also include details of mining work, environmental management activities, and any land disturbance and rehabilitation. The specific requirements are detailed in the Regulations.
Page last updated: 26 May 2020